Parents, kids and teachers begin another uncertain school year in Montreal

·3 min read
Wanda Santana and Wendoly Santana are starting at École Saint-Bernardin in Saint-Michel, where they will be wearing masks at all times while indoors. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC - image credit)
Wanda Santana and Wendoly Santana are starting at École Saint-Bernardin in Saint-Michel, where they will be wearing masks at all times while indoors. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC - image credit)

In the schoolyard at Saint-Bernardin elementary school in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Michel, eager students arrived Thursday morning carrying backpacks weighed down with school supplies, lunches and masks.

Earlier this week, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced that in most regions across Quebec, students would have to wear masks at all times indoors, including while seated in classrooms.

While some kids told CBC News that they found their mask hot and uncomfortable to wear all day, other students said they at least understood why its being enforced.

"We wear it for protection. We need it 'cause we don't want to get COVID," said 10-year-old Krystie Jean Charles.

She said she's feeling excited and nervous to start her last year of primary school.

"I feel kind of stressed," she said. "And I'm not going to the same school as my friends."

Jennifer Yoon/CBC
Jennifer Yoon/CBC

Jeffrey Lam, whose son is 11, said he feels the health measures are for the best, but he recognizes that "it's not comfortable for the kids all day with the mask."

He's one of many parents who have been preparing their kids for the back-to-school changes, reminding them that mask wearing and hand washing will again be a part of their routine.

Minister Roberge, who stopped by the school Thursday morning to speak with reporters, said that he's happy to see kids back in school in person, and he wants to keep it that way.

"I'm so happy to see them with their smiles, seeing their new teachers, seeing their friends," he said. "Its a nice day, it's not a normal day, you know, we're wearing masks, we have some health measures, but it's a happy day."

Roberge said that with the uncertainty of the fourth wave and the delta variant, it's not impossible that the health measures could change. However, he's confident in the measures currently in place.

"If the pandemic changes, if we have a new wave, maybe the public health authorities will send us new recommendations. And of course we will follow them," he said. "But right now, I think we have the right plan at the right time."

With the back-to-school plan changing within days of the first students going back, some parents admitted they weren't sure what the policy was and told their kids they'd find out when they arrived.

That means the pressure is once again on staff to explain and enforce the rules.

Jennifer Yoon/CBC
Jennifer Yoon/CBC

Chief-Curvis Gyembibi, an English teacher at Saint-Bernardin, is starting the year off optimistic.

"I think this will be a good year … as long as we sanitize our hands," he joked.

Gyembibi said today that his goal is to help kids "feel free and feel comfortable in the class."

"I can see in their eyes that they are excited, a little bit nervous, but that's why we're here," he said. "I always do my best to be the least stressful person in the classroom, so I can actually influence [the students] with that energy."

While he knows that new challenges could come as a result of the fourth wave, Gyembibi said he has confidence in the staff to help make the year as smooth as possible for the kids.

"I'm very happy to see the students. Honestly, that is the most important thing for me, for the whole school year. As long as the students are okay, I'm okay. They do come first and they are the future."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting